Yaya - From Bouake To One Of Africa's Best Exports
Yaya Wasn’t Allowed To Flourish With Barca
Yaya Toure’s life today is a far cry from when he first set foot in Europe as a skinny teenager. Arriving in 2001 at Beveren in Belgium, the young man didn’t even own a pair of boots. A product of the famous Asec Mimosas youth academy in the Ivory Coast, the 18-year-old must have felt like a fish out of water in the chilly air of a Belgian autumn. At the beginning, Toure was just a home-sick, young kid longing for his family back in Bouake.
The humble, early days of his burgeoning career were perhaps like any other youngster trying to catch a break in the European super leagues. The story goes he was a late sleeper, who ate like a horse and drank Fanta by the gallon. Yet, it was on the football pitch that he was, literally and figuratively, head and shoulders above everyone else. It wasn’t long before the tremendous talent of the elegant box-to-box midfielder was recognized by the top leagues of Europe. After impressive spells with various clubs in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece and France, eventually the big-guns in the form of Barcelona came calling for his signature in 2007. Yet, truthfully, he was never allowed to truly flourish with Barca.
He found his spiritual home at Man City
The Catalonia giants were obsessed with tiki-taka. For this possession-based style to work, sacrifices had to be made. The stars of the show back then were Samuel Eto’o, Ronaldinho, Xavi, Thierry Henry, as well as a young, yet even at that stage undoubtedly magical, Lionel Messi. Instead of being the powerhouse around whom you build your entire side, Toure had to accommodate these other superstars by being the disciplined defensive cover, a foil to their attacking flights of fancy. At one point, Barca even stuck the player in at centre back – a position he’d never played in his entire career! While Toure did his job with diligence, he was never allowed to shine in his barnstorming, and much preferred, box-to-box role. That was until Manchester City signed the Ivorian in 2010, and he finally found his spiritual home.
With City he became the playmaker, destroyer and goalscorer, all rolled into one. In other words, the Sky Blues built the entire superstructure of the 2011/12 and 2013/14 title winning teams around him. As a result, the skinny teenager from Bouake has now arguably become the pre-eminent box-to-box midfielder in the game. This is because, on his day, as he has shown many times before for City, he is simply unstoppable!
A quality box-to-box midfielder is often the driving force behind a successful football team. He must be a complete player in attacks and defence. In this Namaqua feature, we look at players, both past and present, who have enjoyed success in this role…